Work on a controversial £1.2million project to create a new home for Lichfield Library will begin next week.
The scheme will see the ground floor of St Mary’s Church in Market Square opened up to house the building when it switches from The Friary. The site will also include a tourist information centre.
The first floor will be transformed to create a museum, exhibition and performance space.
Work will include exposing the church’s original features, 19th century columns, incorporating etched glass screens into the new layout and retaining the altar, choir stalls and pews at the east end as a study area and IT suite.
The decision to move the library came despite a 5,500-strong petition calling for the current site at The Friary – which will eventually be redeveloped for residential accommodation – to be retained as the facility’s home.
Cllr Gill Heath, Staffordshire County Council’s libraries chief, said: “These are very exciting times for the city and it’s great to see work on the new library get underway.
“This will not only ensure that Lichfield has a first-class library for the next 30 years, but will also help safeguard the historic building from closure, boost the heart of the city and support local traders.
“The new History Access Point will also give people access to archives and will provide an opportunity to get more people interested in their local and family history. This will also help strengthen the number of tourists exploring Lichfield’s fascinating past.”
A £250,000 fundraising campaign was launched by The Guild of St Mary’s to reinvigorate the first floor.
Caroline Kerr, from St Mary’s, said: “Our vision is to become an arts and learning venue that is affordable and accessible to all.
“We want to provide on the first floor a vibrant and engaging heritage and arts experience alongside the relocated library. We will work with Lichfield Library to create an offer that benefits all and knits together our already creative offering in the city.”